Standing behind home plate is a particularly dangerous place to be. Catchers and umpires are especially vulnerable to head injuries from errant pitches and foul tips. In recent years, almost two-thirds of the players on Major League Baseball’s seven-day concussion list were catchers.
For decades, a padded face mask has been standard equipment. They provide little protection for anything other than direct facial impact, but they’re what catchers and umpires are used to wearing. To encourage the switch to a hockey-style helmet, Wilson needed a design that was comfortable, didn’t impede the field of vision, looked stylish and clearly conveyed superior safety features.
Through research on shock absorption technology and materials, computer modeling, simulations and prototyping, Design Concepts engineers developed a unique approach. The “floating mask” uses four side pistons and two front isolators to connect the face mask to the helmet. This allows the mask to “float” separately from the helmet itself so impact is better absorbed before reaching the head. The technology allows the mask’s shock absorption system to diffuse impact energy in four key zones (left, right, forehead and chin). Laboratory testing showed the Shock FX system reduces impact forces to the head by 50 percent in a 60” drop test when compared to a traditional helmet.
Our industrial designers focused on the helmet’s visual technology, externalizing the shock absorption features, improving airflow and breathability — delivered in a tough, professional style. To offer a full line of protective gear for, the team developed leg guards and chest protectors that integrate hinge technology for improved fit and comfort.
Wilson’s Shock FX helmet and protective system was chosen as the official 2008 catcher’s protective gear of Major League Baseball.
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